Write the book of your heart. We’ve all heard it, right? What it usually means is this: ignore the market and tell that story that’s inside of you. Write the book that won’t let you go, the one that drives you and inspires you, the one whose characters have come to be old friends. (Actually, make that family members, as they’ve been living with you for years.) We’ve heard it from agents, from editors, and from each other. Write the book of your heart. And far be it from me to tell you otherwise.
However, it is worth reiterating the following:
1-The BOYH is often your first book, with all the amateur trappings that come with first attempts.
2-Your love for the BOYH can blind you to its weaknesses and render you deaf to constructive criticism.
The book of my heart got me an agent. It even got the attention of an editor at Berkley. What it didn’t get me was a publishing contract. It had charm. It was funny. But it wasn’t ready, plain and simple. So I went back to the drawing board, and basically wrote a more sophisticated version of the BOYH. And that didn’t sell, either.
It was then my agent put a question to me—what kind of writer do you want to be? The words appeared in my brain like a message from a Magic 8 Ball: a published one. She offered me the opportunity to write a cozy, so I did a genre hop from women’s fiction and landed squarely into to mystery territory.
Writing that first mystery began as an academic exercise; I approached it pragmatically. This is the book that will get me published, I told myself. This would be the book of my head, not my heart. (If the book of my heart was a love match, the book of my head was a marriage of convenience.) But as I got deeper into the story and more involved with the characters, a wondrous thing happened—I fell in love. I started that project by using my head, but ended up putting all my heart into it.
Don’t get me wrong; I still love my first book. It will always be the book of my heart. And I’ll get back to that book someday. Because eight years and four books later, I know exactly what it will take to make it better, maybe even publishable: a cold eye, a sure hand, a warm heart—and a cool head.
Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. Her debut novel, Murder and Marinara, will be released October 1. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. She lives fifty miles from the nearest ocean in central New Jersey with her husband and two of her three sons.